Dogs are a crapshoot. They just are. Even within the same exact litter, puppies will vary like night and day. There's no guarantee when you get a dog, what they will end up like. Even as a pup, you have no clue what you're getting. Between 8 weeks and 3 years, the dog will undergo some pretty dramatic changes in personality. Even the best judge of dogs has been surprised at how a pup turned out as an adult.
Older dogs are obviously less of a gamble, especially if they're over a year old. You have more of a feel for their personality and temperament.
No matter when you get the dog, and what the dog's personality ends up being like, you will have to supervise child and dog until the kid is five or six years old, at least. Kids, and dogs, do crazy, unpredictable things. Either or both can be injured, without any malice being involved. Accidents happen.
I'm sure when you say you want a GSD to protect and love your children, you mean a nice family pet. If you're actually hoping for a PPD, I can tell you that PPDs and kids are not generally a very good mix, and a PPD and a young child shouldn't be left alone unattended, ever. PPDs are not family dogs, and 99.999% of people neither need a PPD, nor are capable of altering their lifestyle to accommodate one. Especially families with children.
Normally I wouldn't comment on the protective remark, but I just wandered over from the "when will my dog become protective and begin attacking people who walk through the door", I just want to address any misconceptions up front. People often have this view of every German Shepherd being Rin Tin Tin, without realizing the reality of the breed, and dogs in general. Dogs are not naturally "protective". Those that appear to be protective, are, in reality, often resource guarding, and are as much a threat to their owners as they are a stranger. Protection training is long, involved, and very few dogs are suited for it. Of those that are, even fewer are social dogs that would fit well within a family environment.
In my own case, I waited until my son was four before we got another dog.
Prior to that, there was no way that I could manage working, parenting and training a high-drive working dog. Obviously, the last factor is variable. I intentionally sought out a working line GSD, with the intent of being actively involved in sport. I was not getting a family pet. However, consider how much free time you do have in your day.
Do you only have a few hours in the evening after work?
How much will you want to spend with your family? Will that impede exercise and training for the dog? Will your wife work, or stay home, after she has a kid? If both of you are going to be working, the kid is coming home from daycare, etc, a dog might not be a good mix for you until the kid is much older. The demands of parenting an infant/toddler/preschooler may not leave much time for dog ownership.
Ultimately, no matter what a dog ends up like, you can manage it.
Whether you're willing to do what that takes, is another story.
If the dog ends up not doing well around children, will you have the time and dedication to control 100% of their interactions, or keep them apart 100% of the time, while still making sure that the dog gets adequate exercise?
You're just planning your family. What does your career look like? Are you established in a career, or just starting out? Is a move for career purposes likely? Do you own your home? Is the house you live in now big enough for the family you're planning, or might you be likely to move? Do you like the schools there, or will you potentially move to a better school district? These are things to consider.
These are questions to ask yourself. The answers determine when, or if, you should get a dog.
My personal advice is, if after asking yourself the above questions, you're still going to get a dog, either get a dog now, so that it is older when you have the kids, or wait until the kids are a couple of years old, and adopt an older dog, or search out a breeder who breeds companion GSDs.
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: HCT, CGC